There are four core areas of rootedness – of nurture and support – that we (Deborah and Lloyd Lee) have found essential to the Quaker faith tradition: Spiritual Discipline(s), Historical Gratefulness, Scriptural Literacy, and Spiritual Community. Rootedness in each of these areas provides strength, stability, and the nutrients for fresh spiritual growth as a Quaker. It is our goal in Deeper Roots to explore each of these areas together and to provide participants with some basic tools for continued growth.
Spiritual Disciplines that have been important to Friends over the centuries include spiritual journaling, a daily examen, reading Scripture, daily individual worship, and answering the queries on a regular basis. We will experiment with several of these disciplines (and perhaps others) to see which ones can be of particular value to Friends in the present day, and how they can be most helpful.
Historical Gratefulness involves understanding one’s place in the arc of the larger story of Quakerism and the even larger story of Christianity. Each of us has entered into a continuing narrative that began long before we were born, and that narrative has helped shape each meeting into the particular faith community to which we now belong. Understanding that continuing narrative and our place in it provides valuable resources for our own spiritual work in the present day. The program will explore several of the key personages in our spiritual history, in their own words when possible, to learn how their own commitments and actions made it possible for there to be a Quaker meeting accessible when it came time for each of us to go to meeting for worship for the first time.
Scriptural Literacy means understanding the scope of the “Great Story”, how Scriptures have come to be a main expression of that story, and what distinctive role Scriptures play in Quakerism that is different from the understanding of most Christians. We will explore how Friends across the centuries have looked at the role of Scripture, and how their understanding has affected the role the words of Scripture have played in Quaker faith and practice. We will develop a familiarity with some basic tools for exploring the meaning of specific Scripture passages on our own.
Spiritual Community refers to the need, especially strong among Friends, to nurture and exercise our faith understandings and commitments in the context of a committed, seeking community of faith that can encourage us, hold us accountable for our commitments and responsibilities, and help us live out our faith in living witness to the world. Participants in the Deeper Roots program will explore how older structures in the Religious Society of Friends filled various needs of a healthy spiritual community, and how we might combine some of these structures with other, new webs and combinations of relationships to meet the needs of a healthy community today.
In our experience, competency (rootedness) in these areas is best attained through extensive personal experience, often with the help of a mentor, rather than study of a catechism or an intellectual assent to a set of propositions. In the Quaker understanding, this “conversion of manners” takes place over time, little by little, rather than in a single moment of conversion or commitment. The Deeper Roots program is focused on personal and corporate experience rather than academic curriculum; on giving participants the tools and personal connections needed for continued growth after the program is over.
As some have observed, membership in a Quaker meeting comes at the beginning of one’s faith journey, and the most important work is always yet to come. Joining the Religious Society of Friends is not a statement about what one has achieved spiritually as much as it is a statement of that to which one aspires, and of one’s commitment to those aspirations. We feel it is analogous to enrolling in an apprenticeship – a commitment to devote significant time and effort to learn and incorporate new spiritual understandings into one’s faith and practice. As apprentices, we can help one another learn the discipline and discern how best to put what we’ve learned into our practice, as individuals, families, and corporately as a community of faith.
During the Deeper Roots program, we will touch on each of these four areas each time we meet, and focus on one particular area each weekend. Future posts will explore each core area in turn.
(The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the apprentice authors, and not official statements of North Carolina Yearly Meeting (Conservative) or Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) of the Religious Society of Friends.)